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The arrival of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples on the first Pentecost — the Church’s birthday — enabled something highly beautiful out of a group of people who had previously seen through a glass darkly, to paraphrase St Paul.

Similarly, the gifts of intellect, creativity and perseverance can produce similar beauty.

Yesterday, on the night of Pentecost Sunday 2021, someone posted a fantastic video of woodworking by an artisan, Andy Phillip from Skipton, North Yorkshire, who produces a variety of beautiful woodwork for sale.

In this video from May 12, he shows us how he transformed a yew tree root, something most of us would throw into the recycling bin, into a piece of art. I was spellbound watching his 11-minute video:

Another example of transformation is in housing, also somewhere in England. The person who posted this online says this building actually exists and claims to have seen it, although he did not say where. From Bauhaus to beautiful house:

Isn’t that block of flats splendid? If the Conservatives go through with their plan for ‘building back better’ post-coronavirus with beautiful buildings, I’ll be all for it.

These two examples just go to show what mankind is capable of when using God’s gifts to the fullest.

It was with sadness that I learned of the conservative philosopher Roger Scruton’s death on January 12, 2020. I saw the tweets on the Revd Giles Fraser‘s Twitter feed:

Scruton was an Anglican and wrote a book in 2013: Our Church: A Personal History of the Church of England (2013), a defence of our Established Church.

With regard to faith, he wrote (emphases mine):

Rational argument can get us just so far… It can help us to understand the real difference between a faith that commands us to forgive our enemies, and one that commands us to slaughter them. But the leap of faith itself — this placing of your life at God’s service — is a leap over reason’s edge. This does not make it irrational, any more than falling in love is irrational.

He advocated the appreciation of beauty in our environment. From that, we can sense God’s presence in the world.

However, most of us will remember him for his many treatises and articles in which he put forth his distinctly un-PC views. He was gentle, yet bold and unafraid to express himself. I did not agree with everything he wrote, but he was always eloquent and considered. We will not see his like again for years to come:

This is what he wrote about French wine. I don’t really understand this, but it is typically Scruton:

This page — a better example — is from his book on wine and discusses the Gilbey family, known primarily for their gin. However, they also own a vineyard in the Bordeaux region:

Scruton said that wine is conservative:

Fraser, who writes for UnHerd and produces podcast interviews for them in a series called Confessions, wrote a beautiful tribute to Scruton: ‘Raise your glass to Roger Scruton, the terroiriste’. Terroir is the French word describing the soil and climate in which grapes grow. Terroir defines a wine’s specific characteristics.

Excerpts follow:

Terroir is a sense of place in a glass. Roger Scruton often referred to himself as a ‘terroiriste’. And this could describe his political philosophy as much as his philosophy of wine. From 2001 to 2009, Scruton wrote a wine column in the New Statesman, enabling him to smuggle into that otherwise exclusively Left-wing journal, all sorts of reactionary political ideas: about God, about fox-hunting, about beauty, about his love of the countryside.

Scruton understood aesthetics — and wine — differently to most people:

Scruton wrote about wine very differently — not because he disagreed about the science but because he understood aesthetics very differently. He bemoaned the way in which aesthetic experience had come to be seen as something separable and distinct from questions of the good, or the true, or of politics or indeed anything else. That’s why his wine column ranged so far and wide. Beauty, for example, an idea that lies at the centre of Scruton’s philosophy, is as much a moral as it is an aesthetic phenomenon. There is no wall between them. That’s why Scruton could write about wine like this:

Visitors to Burgundywill sense all around them the history and religion. … They will know that this is hallowed soil: it has been blessed and cajoled and prayed for over the centuries, many of the vineyards being worked by monks for whom wine is not just a drink but a sacrament … Even in this skeptical age, their vine is something more spiritual than vegetal, and their soil more heaven than earth.”

I tend to agree. I also link wine, eaux de vie and liqueurs with monasteries, finding something of the sacred in all of them. For this reason, I do not understand how people can be teetotal — alcoholism excepted — when drinking these responsibly is one of the greatest experiences ever.

Fraser, who is rector of an Anglican church in south London, also sees something holy in wine:

I once consecrated a bottle of Chateau Latour for the funeral of a great wine lover. There were only a few of us at the funeral. I carefully laid out several crystal glasses on the altar and carefully poured into them the precious liquor, investing it, through the Eucharistic prayer, with the story of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Do this in remembrance of me. I swear the wine tasted different for having been consecrated. And that was, one might say, because of the theological terroir with which it had been framed.

I can believe it.

Scruton very much respected the environment but not in today’s eco-warrior way. In it, he saw centuries of heritage and shared values, which informed his notion of the nation-state:

… it is important to emphasise that he never thought the nation state should be celebrated in terms of race or creed. For him, it was a commitment to place, and the shared and common institutions, customs and traditions that make a place what it is.

Moreover, Scruton’s conservatism wasn’t aggressive. Wine, when drunk properly, relaxes people and introduces conviviality. People fight over oil, he once remarked, but not over wine. As he once put it about wine-growing in the Lebanon, “Invade the producer and you lose the product; trade with him peacefully and you are supplied from year to year.” Indeed, “Hezbollah don’t occupy the Beqaa because of Chateau Musar – if they did, peace would quickly come to southern Lebanon.”

Wine, and indeed terroir-ism, was, for him, the product of, and encouragement towards, peace and civility. What he had in mind here was more the wine of the Greek symposium than that guzzled in quantity by the boorish drunk. His idea of heaven was that of domestic home-loving contentment, with friends sitting around the table drinking wine, sharing ideas. There is nothing remotely fascist about this.

Last Sunday’s readings featured the Gospel reading about the miracle at Cana. Fraser wrote this on Thursday, January 16:

As it so happens, this coming Sunday is the day in the church’s calendar when we remember the first miracle performed by Christ, turning water into wine. This trumps ‘Dry January’. Yesterday, I had the mad idea of consecrating a bottle of Chateau Trotanoy 1945 for the occasion, the taste of which first converted the young Scruton to his life-long dedication to the religion of the grape. But as the helpful gentleman from Berry Bros informed me, this was nearly £4,000 a bottle, and probably impossible to find.

I will obviously have to look for something a little more modestly priced … But whatever I find, this seems like an appropriate way to say goodbye. Roger Scruton once played the organ for us at our little church in South London. Without an organist in attendance, and needing a carol playing, he got up and played it from sight. Scruton had a soft spot for Anglicanism.

As far as faith is concerned:

He wasn’t a conventional believer, but he spoke to me extremely movingly last year about the need for him to follow Christ’s example and forgive those who had so wronged him last year when he was mischievously disparaged as an anti-Semite and subsequently sacked from his job as the Government’s architectural advisor. You can listen to that Confession here.

His was a philosophy of place and philosophy of peace. Something well worth raising a glass to, consecrated or otherwise. In his life, whether in the Reform club or around his farmyard kitchen table in Wiltshire, he celebrated the miracle of water into wine, and was thoroughly suspicious of all those — whether Puritans or Salafis — who would turn it back again. He will be much missed. May he rest in peace.

I wrote about his wrongful sacking in July 2019. He was reinstated, but, for most of us, the damage had been done. The Conservatives rounded on him without even asking questions about the interview he had given to the New Statesman, which had deliberately misquoted him.

His work for the British government included plans for aesthetically pleasing council homes. His boss, Robert Jenrick MP, said he would implement Scruton’s plans. I certainly hope he does. My post on architecture from August 2019 gives you an idea of what Scruton liked.

The Chief Rabbi also paid the late philosopher a tribute:

This was Scruton’s library in Wiltshire. Check out the baby grand:

In closing, here is another Scruton interview, focussing on beauty:

May Roger Scruton rest in peace.

My condolences to his widow Sophie and his two children at this most difficult time.

In 1818, John Keats’s poem Endymion was published.

It begins with these verses:

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

I think of the first line often, especially when I look at architecture.

One of the joys of living in Europe is becoming acquainted with the architectural styles particular to each country. Even without a photograph identification, even an amateur architecture buff can often tell where the photo was taken.

However, since the end of the Second World War, eyesores have appeared everywhere, springing from a hyper-functional Bauhaus style taken to the nth degree.

Architectural Revival‘s Twitter account profiles the best of traditional architecture and the worst of the modern. They also retweet others on the subject.

Here is an example of British post-war architecture in Birmingham:

Of course, this goes on in non-European Western countries, too.

This man makes an excellent point. Please click on the first photo. It is inexplicable that Twitter would deem it ‘sensitive content’:

Returning to Britain, the postwar era also saw homeowners ruin pre-war homes. It was positively encouraged:

Here’s the video. By way of explanation, the late magician Paul Daniels appeared on BBC’s Room 101 to lament interior designers. Paul Merton, the show’s host, then showed Barry Bucknell’s instructions.

The man who owned our house during the 1960s must have seen this on television, because our interior house doors were like this, too. No longer, I am happy to say:

This was also the era of modern council estates. No matter where they are located — Britain, the US, France and elsewhere in the West — they became a bedrock for crime and gangs.

These tweets concern an example in London:

We are often told that architects can no longer design traditional buildings — things of beauty which are joys forever — because of the lack of building materials or techniques.

However, that is not true, as we can see in Germany:

Architects have done traditional rebuilds in Poland, too:

People enjoy not only seeing traditional buildings but also living in traditional houses.

When the Prince of Wales’s Poundbury community was being built nearly 20 years ago, it came in for much criticism and derision. Yet, 17 years on, the houses are maturing well:


A return to traditional homes is taking place in Belgium, too:

However, we have had the Bauhaus-gone-mad style for so long because there is more money in it.

Roger Scruton is an English philosopher with a keen interest in traditional architecture. Unfortunately, he is being treated for cancer at present. I wish him all the best:

Scruton explains the architectural money angle involved:

People don’t like boxes. Comments to that tweet follow:

Architects and planners tell people who love traditional architecture that they are too stupid or ‘uninformed’ to appreciate modern buildings. This is what is happening to the iconic Château Laurier in Ottawa:

Again, more negative comments followed that tweet:

And this is what is happening to historic Allerton Manor outside of Liverpool. Words cannot describe it:

Even a young architect criticised the monstrosity:

The Ottawa and Liverpool eyesores make this one — location unknown — look good by comparison:

Fortunately, Roger Scruton’s many lectures and articles on traditional beauty are gaining ground:

Even an Austrian school is quoting him to youngsters:

Beauty IS important to people. Likewise, tradition.

Let’s help to put a stop to those who want us to live in boxes. Let’s educate each other and our children: it IS possible to build structures incorporating tradition and beauty.


Forbidden Bible Verses will appear on Monday, August 26.

Hair salon salon-poster-800-wideSome hairdressers belong in one of the nine circles of Hell.

There are many unsung heroes of the hair world out there, but, from what I see, they are increasingly harder to find.

Why would I care about hairdressers? Only because I’ve seen so many bad highlights, cuts and styles emanating from our local salons over the past few years. None of them is cheap. The barber — not the professional stylist — seems to be the best bet for a proper haircut. Go figure.

Cardinal hairdressing sins

1/ From my observations, highlighting today often reveals lack of attention and apathy when it comes to a woman’s hairline. No hairdresser should need to be told that colour must be carefully applied to and around the hairline. A ‘senior stylist’ — as they insist on being called — should be a dab hand at applying foils or a little root touch-up to every woman purchasing highlights. Yet, I often see lines by the temples where it is clear colour has been applied but not blended in. It looks like … hell. It also makes it impossible for that woman to change her hairdo; sweeping back one side is out of the question. Yet, she will have paid £100 for a poor job.

2/ Today’s haircuts are abysmal, especially for ‘older’ women. It used to be that a hairdresser didn’t consider a female customer old until she went in one day asking for a blue rinse and a perm. Nowadays, a woman is old in a hairdresser’s eyes when she hits 50. She can be assured that her hairdresser does not have a vision of beauty in mind for her, even when she describes what she would like. She will give that woman a granny haircut, often one with fringe (bangs) that is too short and blunt. The customer then emerges from the salon looking no younger or prettier.

Francoise Hardy francoise-hardy-elle-jpg_9967Francoise Hardy francoise_hardy_01On the other hand, the French singer Françoise Hardy has been blessed with a lifetime of great hairdressers (see photos — decades old dos which are still stylish). Furthermore, she — and her hairdresser — demonstrate that une femme d’un certain age can look chic and beautiful. Hardy’s haircuts are not complicated. Any hairdresser should know a basic cut which can be modified: longer fringe, layering around the ears and tapering the lower third of the head.

On the other side of the spectrum, the other atrocity I often see are young women with very long hair leaving a salon all gussied up with three inches of dry, frizzy ends. A good hairdresser should have broken the news months before: ‘I’m sorry, but the longer we let those ends go, the worse it will be for your hair.’ They must be cut. No deep conditioner can save them.

3/ The styling is basic, flat and boring. Why? It isn’t free of charge. I can tell when some women have been to the salon because they emerge with helmet head or a bob with a crown that has been blowdried into a square. It’s hard to imagine a professional being guilty of such a sin but I often see it here in the world capital of hairdressing. Yes, it is possible for a ‘professional’ to take a perfectly serviceable cut and totally mess up the styling. These women look so much better when they style their own hair in their own homes.

4/ The lack of interest from the hairdresser. There are some vile hairdressers out there. In researching this article, I perused a number of hair fora — some for consumers and some for ‘professionals’. I also know a few salon owners. Only one salon I know of — a husband and wife team — is worth the money. The others, men and women, say, ‘There’s nothing I can do with a hairline — that’s their problem’ or ‘The client isn’t clear about what she wants’. Does that absolve them of being interested enough in their clients to find out or suggest and make a positive difference? After all, they are the ones who insist on being recognised as ‘experts’.  Experts, my eye. The customer — again, man or woman — can pick up on this. Search online for ‘bad hairdressers UK’ and you’ll find a wealth of complaints from both sexes about the shabby treatment they have had.

5/ Because you’re not worth it. This ties in with the previous point. Customers are picking up on the fact that, after a year or two, the hairdresser is no longer that interested in their hair. Highlights are sparser. Cuts cannot be changed or improved. Cuts are butchered. Colour is clearly defined; no deviations. The hairdresser communicates boredom and a desire to be anywhere else but styling your hair. One ‘senior stylist’ told me, ‘We can do anything. It’s a question of if we can be bothered. Sometimes it’s too much effort’. And it clearly shows, even in small provincial salons with undeserved big-city prices.

My mother’s story

My mother had worn a variety of hairstyles in the 1960s for short or shoulder-length hair. When she had short hair, she was happy enough.

Once women began wearing longer bouffants — as they were called — my mother had patchier salon experiences. Ironically, she was happiest when going to the local beauty college every Friday lunchtime. I went with her a couple of times when school was not in session. The student stylist and my mother had conversations about allergic reactions and skin disease. The stylist would explain how exacting the coursework was in this area. Essentially, the cuts, colour and styling were easy; it was the physiology and dermatology courses which could make or break a future beautician, as they were called back then. The exams were rigorous.

We moved house a couple of years later. My mother really missed ‘the girls’. There was no beauty college in our area and no matter what hairdresser my mother went to, they invariably left a line of hair around the middle of her head which made no sense.

She would return home frustrated when she should have felt beautiful and happy.

Years later, I think I know what the problem was. Hairdressers are trained — or acquire a habit of — lifting a section of hair vertically from the centre of the head and trimming it. Once that hair falls to its usual position in styling, it forms a line which doesn’t blend in with the rest of the head. It happens here in the UK, too, so it must be a universal ‘technique’. Oddly, however, the young women at the beauty college did not seem to do this. They trimmed from the sides only.

Well, it wasn’t long before my mother started trimming her own hair. This was back in the 1970s. ‘Why should I pay all that money for a bad haircut?’

My mother continued trimming her own hair until she was in her mid-80s, at which point she reverted back to a skilled (this time) professional. It wasn’t that my mother’s natural talents were slipping, she just wasn’t well enough anymore.

As for colour, once my mother went significantly gray, she started buying box kits. Only one turned out a bit yellowy; the others were a beautiful ash blonde. And, no, I doubt she ever did a skin or hair test. She applied her own colour until she was in her 80s. It can be done and look professional.

How the mighty have fallen — hairdressing statistics

A marketing maxim is statistics: ‘Everyone loves looking at the numbers!’

A 2009 survey of 2,000 women in Britain showed:

  • The majority of women change their stylists before their fourth haircut
  • Less [‘Fewer’!] than 25% of clients stay with their stylist beyond a year
  • Half of women outside London prefer their own home blowdry to their stylist’s efforts
  • 40% of women avoid salons on a regular basis because of unhappy experiences and lack of trust in hairdressers’ abilities.

Those are all the things I mentioned above, and that was from my personal observation and research.

What hairdressers can do

Like every other business in a difficult economic climate, salons seek to increase footfall and revenue.

Salons are feeling the pinch as their equally pinched customers are postponing repeat appointments in an attempt to save money.

Unfortunately, most look towards marketing campaigns (local leaflet drop), periodic discounts, music selection (arrgh), product displays and redecorating. All of these are superficial and miss the point entirely.

Yet, a good hairdresser will always have customers. Build it and they will come — introductory offer or not.

However, this requires listening well, doing a professional job, treating customers as if they are valued and making sure they are truly happy with colour, cut and style.

These guidelines from Vidal Sassoon (excerpted) should be professional basics; they are to the customer. Emphases mine:

The ability to think quickly in order to process and evaluate your clients wishes is paramount to your success as a hairdresser. The consultation is your time to use your skills in gathering information in order to use your creativity in creating a style that both suits and makes your client feel great. ‘The Sassoon Way’ divides the consultation into three distinct phases. Note that ‘failure to complete any or all of these stages will be the cause of any later problems’.

Phase 1

Listening and observation – Take into account the following:

Client physique, proportions and profiles to help you choose suitable shapes and lengths.

Did they stride into the salon with confidence, nervousness or appear intimidated?

What style is their clothing (smart, fashionable, casual)?

– Use eye-contact and re-assuring gestures whilst asking open ended questions (questions that cannot be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’)

– Be a good listener. Take time to listen not only to what is being said but also how it is being said.

– Make a mental note of their body language when your client is talking to assess their character.

– You need to be able to offer a cut/style that suits their lifestyle in term of time and skill required to maintain the style …

There are additional pointers in this article from Love Hairdressing. Again, these are — or should be — basics for the ‘professional’:

The perfect step by step consultation:

2)      Sit down next to the client at the styling position and make eye contact, NOT  standing up talking to them in the mirror.

4)      Play detective and look for clues. Observe age, body, height, style, colours, skin tone, make-up, hair growth patterns, hair type, texture, hairline.

5)      I have worked with people in the past that struggle with keeping all this info in their short term memory so don’t be afraid to write things down. Just remember to explain to your clients what you are taking notes on and ALWAYS update your record cards after the appointment with key information.

6)      Once you think you have enough information, stop and THINK. Formulate a plan of action together and clearly repeat your thoughts to your client.

‘Have you got anything in mind today or would you like me to make some suggestions?’ …

When hairdressers do all of those things, believe me, customers will come running. One person tells another. This includes men, who are increasingly likely to seek colour highlights. Twenty- and thirty-something males are a relatively new and lucrative market. Incidentally, locally, we have a traditional barber shop and a new young men’s salon, where they probably do colour.

What the consumer can do

1/ Be clear with your requests and bring a picture of what you would like for yourself.

2/ Go to the salon freshly bathed and groomed. Be polite and well mannered. (This should go without saying, but we’re in the 21st century now, when anything goes.)

3/ If you’re getting colour, do not wash your hair the day you go to the salon. The colour process requires natural oils from the hair.

4/ Avoid gossip or complaining about other stylists. Chances are they know each other and might even be friends.

5/ Take something to read. More salons are doing away with magazines — ‘clutter’ — and have nothing at all.

6/ If you are unhappy, say so objectively. You might be able to get a slight discount for that visit.

7/ Take care when paying. Some salons are a bit sly. They might charge more than you were quoted when you made your appointment. Ensure you are charged for what you are quoted (unless you had an extra treatment) and get any discount from a special offer to which you are entitled.

8/ If you’re getting dolled up for a wedding or other special occasion, try not to a) ask for anything too elaborate and b) get your hair done a week or so in advance so the do can bed in. Too many bridal cascades of hair done on the day end in tears. So does a sudden change in colour.

Finally — the ‘wrong’ kind of hair

If the hairdresser deems your hair to be ‘too thick’ or ‘too fine’, you’ll have a problem these days. They will simply not want to bother or they’ll butcher it in an effort to get you to go elsewhere.

A number of online salon reviews reveal the nastiness that some stylists — even salon owners — show towards their customers with ‘problem’ hair. Customers go home in tears.

If they are true professionals, they should have been trained in thick and fine hair. It shouldn’t ever be a problem.

Such customers might need to investigate mobile hairdressers or do their own hair. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. This does require a lot of reading and watching, however.

For DIY cuts, read online and watch good YouTube videos. Start with a tiny trim of an end or two. Progress from there. Take your time and work in a quiet, unhurried atmosphere.

Colour is more complicated and will require even more research. Do not be tempted to start experimenting with professional tube colour and developer. Walk before you can run. Read a lot — including customer reviews — of temporary and permanent colour. Colour should not be placed on previously coloured hair; unexpected results may occur. Hairdressers can do it because they know how to formulate the mix of colour and developer accordingly.

Highlights are particularly tricky. The aforementioned cautions apply. It should also be noted that too much or too little colour on a cap or, if you dare, foil can be a disaster. Placement often requires another pair of hands. Read everything you can before taking the plunge.

Colour can also stain basins, shower stalls, bathtubs, walls and carpet. Have everything you need before you start, including old towels, baby wipes and, for skin around the hairline, Vaseline.

DIY home colour is a big undertaking and not one to be taken lightly. My mother and millions of other women might have been an exception, but, then, their needs were simpler.

In closing, a final word to cavalier hairdressers. You are secular priests and nonclinical therapists. Your job is to transform your clients — getting men and women to feel better about themselves by making them more attractive. Hair is a universal attribute, part of our personal identity. Treat people with the care and attention you would expect for yourselves and you’ll never want for customers. If ever the Golden Rule applied, it is to your profession.

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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